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War between Fring and Skype boosts Apple's Facetime

A battle between Fring and Skype over mobile voice and video calls could ultimately result in faster adoption of Apple's Facetime as an open standard for mobile video calls.

Shortly after updating its Fring app to enable video calls for iPhone users running iOS 4 last week, the Israeli startup behind the IM and VoIP client announced that it needed to "temporally reduce support" in Fring for making calls to Skype accounts, indicating that users would now only be able to initiate video calls to other Fring accounts.

Today, Fring claimed on its website that Skype was "cowardly" blocking its app from using the Skype network, writing "They are afraid of open mobile communication. Cowards. Needless to say, we are very disappointed that Skype, who once championed the cause of openness is now trying to muzzle competition, even at the expense of its own users. We’re sorry for the inconvenience Skype has caused you."

Skype responded on its own official blog that "Fring was using Skype software in a way it wasn’t designed to be used – and in a way which is in breach of Skype’s API Terms of Use and End User License Agreement."

Battle affects all mobiles

While dominating the consumer video chat and Voice over IP market with its desktop software, Skype isn't yet offering video chat in its official Skype mobile app, which currently only handles voice calls.

Skype distributes apps for iPhone, select Nokia and Sony Ericsson smartphones, and for Verizon BlackBerry and Verizon "Droid" branded Android phones (which Skype distributes through Verizon as part of an exclusive marketing deal that prevents other BlackBerry and Android phone users on other carriers from being able to use Skype at all).

Fring entered the market with a full featured chat client that piggybacks on Skype's network, and began offering its app to Android, Symbian and iPhone users. Fring's own network doesn't seem to work very well, but users reported better success in connecting to desktop Skype users. However, the massive influx of traffic from iPhone users trying out Fring brought that system down entirely, prompting the squabble between Fring and Skype that resulted in Android users losing their Fring to Skype functionality as well.

As it stands, users with Fring can now only place video calls with other Fring users; iPhone and Verizon Droid users can use the official Skype app to connect to other mobile and desktop users, but only in voice chats; and other Android users, including Sprint's EVO 4G, can't use Skype for voice nor can they any longer use Fring to activate their front facing camera to do video chats with Skype users.

Fring vs FaceTime

On page 2 of 2: Market for mobile video open to FaceTime.